Durban — Almost R15 million was paid to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Development officials implicated in the blanket saga.
That was revealed in a KZN legislature written reply provided by the department after DA KZN spokesperson on social development, Mmabatho Tembe sent written questions to MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza.
Three years ago, 13 officials were suspended for alleged involvement in the irregular procurement of blankets for the homeless. Their suspension followed the release of the executive summary of a forensic report by then Premier Sihle Zikalala, which confirmed irregularities in relation to the April procurement of blankets and personal protective equipment worth R22 million and R19m, respectively.
Responding to Tembe’s questions which ranged from the total cost-to-company incurred by the department for officials implicated in the blanket corruption during their suspension, through to whether the department has recovered any funds from the incident, Khoza said that a “total of R14 639 623 was paid to the officials (while) they were on suspension.”
Khoza said that the officials did not get annual bonuses but in terms of the Public Service Act, the officials received 13th cheque payments.
“The total 13th cheque payments amounted to R816 966,” Khoza said.
In relation to how much exit cost was incurred by the department in relation to the official who resigned after being charged, Khoza confirmed that the official resigned.
“He was paid R40 420.19 being the amount due for unused vacation leave days,” Khoza said.
Tembe also asked Khoza if the department has recovered any funds from the case.
“Yes, funds have been recovered. The process is managed by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and is ongoing,” Khoza said.
“The SIU has confirmed that they have recovered an amount of R864 000 from Rosette Investments and R718 550 from Zain Brothers. Recoveries from other companies have not been finalised by the court. No recoveries were recommended against officials,” she said.
Khoza said that the department pressed charges against the implicated officials as per the SIU recommendations. A case was opened at Pietermaritzburg SAPS.
“The case was investigated by the SIU. On December 21, 2021, the SAPS reported that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has declined to prosecute the officials (nolle prosecute). The docket has been closed,” Khoza said.
She added that the department is doing everything within its power to expedite the finalisation of the misconduct hearings. Twelve officials were recommended to be charged with misconduct. Cases against the nine have been finalised. The remaining hearing against the three members is scheduled for June 19, 2023, to July 7, 2023.
Commenting on the responses by the Department of Social Development, DA KZN spokesperson on social development Mmabatho Tembe said that the reply revealed that the department paid R14 million to officials suspended after being implicated in the province’s so-called Covid-19 blanket saga.
“This is R14 million worth of taxpayers’ money. The DA regards it a grave injustice that it was paid to individuals sitting at home, doing nothing,” Tembe said.
She said that the DA always maintained that officials implicated in this saga should have been suspended without pay. The party also stated that they should be criminally charged, given that they allegedly stole from the poor.
“KZN’s DSD is already struggling on every front, with inadequate funding to deal with the vast number of social ills plaguing our province,” Tembe said.
She said that the R14 million could have been used to:
- Establish more gender-based violence shelters in the province as this scourge remains at an all-time high;
- Provide more funding to the many KZN non-governmental organisations facing closure and struggling to pay utility bills;
- Provide more SAPS victim-friendly rooms and create safe spaces for vulnerable and abandoned children;
- Provide more social workers to assist with psycho-social issues within our communities and;
- Fix or buy more vehicles for social workers so that they can provide services to our communities.
“It is clear that this ANC-run government cannot even fix the basics. Voters need to remember this when they go to the polls in 2024,” Tembe said.
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